Right dose of
risk and loyalty

An image of Anthony Yap and Hanh Luu in their pharmacy in Cannon Hill.

Business is booming for UQ graduates and Good Price Pharmacy Warehouse founders Anthony Yap and Hanh Luu. Contact caught up with the couple to learn about their entrepreneurial journey to success and the challenges they faced along the way.

Standing in the middle of a seemingly endless aisle of health products in their huge Cannon Hill pharmacy in Brisbane, Anthony Yap and Hanh Luu are quick to agree on their proudest career accomplishment.

As the founders of the industry-disruptive and immensely successful Good Price Pharmacy Warehouse chain – one that boasts more than 40 ‘big box’-style stores nationwide – it’s the people that mean more to them than the size of their business.

“Our first team member, from 2001, is still with us,” Yap (Bachelor of Pharmacy ’98) said.

“That is very satisfying.”

Satisfying, because the journey they have been on together has had enough bumps along the road to have any employee at least contemplate other opportunities.

The daughter of a refugee mother who fled the Vietnam War to Thailand and then Australia when she was just one, Luu met Yap (whose parents immigrated from Malaysia before he was born) at UQ – although their eventual romance didn’t start for a few years.

“He would sit at the back of lectures, while I was the nerd at the front,” Luu (Bachelor of Pharmacy ’98) said with a laugh.

After graduating, their first jobs taught them critical lessons about business that they would use for the next two decades.

“I landed with a group where the owner controlled six or seven stores, so I was exposed to running a pharmacy as a health professional, but I also got to see the business side of things,” Yap said, noting that Luu also worked for the same owner but at a different store.

“Everything was systemised and put into procedures so you could replicate the model from one site to another. 

“It really resonated and I could see how it all worked, and that is when we really aspired to own our own pharmacy.” 

An image Anthony Yap and Hanh Luu talking to the pharmacist in their pharmacy in Cannon Hill.

Systems and procedures might seem mundane to the average graduate, but they were foundational lessons that helped build a successful business.

The couple bought their first store in 2001 in the bayside suburb of Deagon, which was followed by two more in quick succession. 

But in 2003 they decided to take a leap of faith that would disrupt the entire industry.

“We always knew that the way forward was to have a ‘big box’ concept,” Yap said. 

The ‘big box’ model provides consumers with a broader range of products at discounted prices, and often in familiar franchise-style stores.

“The model was going so well in so many other areas – such as in hardware with Bunnings Warehouse – and we thought that having a big range with everyday low prices would resonate,” Yap said. 

“It had only been done in Melbourne before, and we were one of the first ‘big box’ pharmacies in Queensland.”

However, Yap and Luu never allowed overconfidence to overtake the need for sound business decisions.

“There was never a moment when we were arrogant and thought we would take over the world, but there was definitely a sense that ‘this has worked – so what’s the worst that can happen?’,” Luu said. 

“Let’s just take that risk and go for it.”

“We wanted to create a brand that would leave a legacy, one that we would be proud of, and one that would provide jobs for people who are still working with us.”

There were many highs among the long hours and rapid expansion, but some of the lows challenged every fibre of their being.  

“One of the most confronting was when our major competition opened up directly next door to us in 2004,” Yap said. 

Despite the threat, their store still proudly stands next to their competitor 15 years later.

It was one of several major issues that could have derailed their journey, but Luu said those times played an important part in their eventual success.

“We never set out thinking we were going to build a big business. But going through those things made us stronger as a couple, and as a business,” she said.

“We wanted to create a brand that would leave a legacy, one that we would be proud of, and one that would provide jobs for people who are still working with us.”

Yap and Luu are also the proud parents of two high-energy boys, and supporters of numerous charities and community organisations throughout Brisbane. But they reiterate that in business, they have gained the most joy from those who shared their vision.

 “We have 60 staff who have been with us for at least 10 years,” Yap said.

Luu said it meant so much that people believed in them as much as they believed in themselves.

“And they still want to be with us. It’s a heartwarming feeling.”

Learn more about the Pharmacy Australia Centre of Excellence at UQ.

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